Federal-State Settlement Resolves Environmental Violations at Hussey Copper Smelting Facility in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania
Hussey Copper has agreed to perform a comprehensive environmental audit, implement an updated environmental management system, and pay an $861,500 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law (PCSL) at its smelting facility in Leetsdale, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
The civil complaint, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and filed simultaneously with the settlement, alleges violations of the CWA and PCSL that threaten to degrade receiving streams and impact public health and harm aquatic life. These include chronic exceedances of effluent limits in the facility’s PADEP-issued CWA permit -- limiting oil sheens and discharges of copper, chromium, nickel, oil and grease, lead, pH, total suspended solids and zinc.
“This settlement reaffirms that industrial polluters must do the necessary work to ensure that their operations are not causing harm to our nation’s waterways,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are happy to have partnered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to ensure the continued protection of the Ohio River.”
“This agreement holds Hussey Copper accountable for the impact their actions have had on the health of the Ohio River,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “We will continue to work with our partners to enforce the laws enacted to protect our region’s abundant natural resources.
“Today’s settlement improves water quality for the citizens of Leetsdale and surrounding communities,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This agreement requires Hussey to address their existing environmental violations, as well as implement plans to address any future noncompliance.”
Under the settlement, along with payment of the penalty, Hussey Copper will:
- Conduct a comprehensive review of its wastewater treatment system.
- Hire third-party consultants to conduct a compliance audit and implement corrective measures.
- Hire third-party consultants to review, update, and audit compliance with the facility’s environmental management system.
- Implement a process to prevent and correct violations of permit effluent limits.
- Conduct annual compliance training of employees and contractors.
- Pay agreed-upon penalties on demand for future violations.
PADEP has assisted EPA in the investigation and litigation of this case and is a co-plaintiff and signatory to the proposed consent decree. Under the settlement, penalty funds will be distributed evenly between the United States and PADEP.
Previous to this settlement, Hussey Copper was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $550,000 and to serve three years’ probation after pleading guilty to three felony CWA charges in December 2020 for offenses involving a multi-year pattern of submitting false discharge monitoring reports to conceal 140 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit violations, discharges of oil into the Ohio River, and the failure to report those oil discharges to the federal government.
The settlement is with Libertas Copper LLC, which does business as Hussey Copper.
This settlement furthers EPA’s national compliance initiative to reduce significant noncompliance and improve surface water quality by assuring dischargers comply with NPDES permit requirements. For more information on this initiative, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-significant-non-compliance-national-pollutant
More information on the Clean Water Act is available at: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act
More information on Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law is available at: https://www.dep.pa.gov/Citizens/My-Water/Pages/default.aspx
The proposed consent decree, filed in the federal district court in Pittsburgh, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the court.
Press Release Number: 21-726